It’s time to re­solve food cri­sis once and for all

Business Daily (Kenya) - - EDITORIAL & OPINION -

Amidst the at­ten­tion­grab­bing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion pe­ti­tion at the Supreme Court, a new re­port has warned that mil­lions of Kenyans are at risk of hunger.

While that is un­likely to at­tract a lot of at­ten­tion, in the next few months it might make for grave read­ing. The Na­tional Drought Man­age­ment Author­ity (NDMA) says some 3.4 mil­lion Kenyans, mainly in arid and semi-arid ar­eas, are star­ing at a bleak fu­ture in the wake of poor long rains ear­lier in the year.

This is fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory for the coun­try that has only re­cently been grap­pling with acute food short­ages and hunger.

In­deed, ac­cord­ing to the weath­er­man, things will get worse be­fore get­ting bet­ter. The com­ing short rains might end be­fore the maize crop flow­ers. What im­me­di­ately comes to mind is the re­cent maize flour sub­sidy pro­gramme that came with im­por­ta­tion of tonnes of maize. It will not be stretch­ing imag­i­na­tion to think the sub­sidy should con­tinue longer than planned.

The au­thor­i­ties, how­ever, need to be care­ful in their plan­ning. Maize will be com­ing into the mar­ket from key pro­duc­ing ar­eas in about a month, mean­ing it will be a del­i­cate bal­anc­ing act.

Inas­much as it is im­por­tant we feed the coun­try, it is also crit­i­cal that we do not get our farm­ers into a cy­cle of des­per­a­tion by flood­ing the mar­ket with im­ports.

We have to note that a lot of for­eign ex­change that can be used to im­port crit­i­cal ma­chin­ery is al­ready go­ing into food we have enough ca­pac­ity to pro­duce lo­cally.

How­ever, it is im­por­tant to get to the heart of the prob­lem be­yond short­term disas­ter man­age­ment. It is clear that the weather pat­terns no longer favour our tra­di­tional rain-fed agri­cul­ture.

Un­less we get ir­ri­ga­tion right— be­yond talking about it—we can as well pre­pare for long-term hunger. With the bil­lions we have in­vested in this area, there is lit­tle to show for it. Again, we should also think about other in­vest­ment ar­eas that can bring us pros­per­ity if we have to keep im­port­ing food.

The gov­ern­ment set to be in­stalled, prob­a­bly shortly, needs to re­solve the food is­sue for the long haul. And five years is enough time to lay the foun­da­tion.

NDMA says 3.4 mil­lion Kenyans are star­ing at a bleak fu­ture

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